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How Super-Kyuss TPKed my PCs (spoilers)


Age of Worms Adventure Path


Round 1: Rogue cohort readies to counter Mordenkainen's disjunction with a scroll. Wizard does time stop, throws 4 maxmized sonic delayed blast fireballs at Kyuss -- none manage to beat his SR. Monk tumbles to the other side of Kyuss. Druid turns into a pit fiend and casts a fire storm, which fails to beat Kyuss' SR. Cleric does a chained heal (using a special magic item) to heal the damage done by the harm that happened back when Kyuss started emerging. Kyuss spends the entire round emerging from the monolith. His divine aura dazes the cohort and the barbarian.

Round 2: Rogue is dazed. Wizard does a Mordenkainen's disjunction on Kyuss, which is useless, as he has no spells going. His two artifacts are unaffected. Monk does a hasted greater flurry and lands one hit on Kyuss. Druid tumbles up to Kyuss. Cleric does another chained heal to un-daze people. Kyuss uses Hand of Death and slays the wizard outright. Then he uses a quickened maze on the cleric (which fails, as he has greater spell immunity) and a quickened time stop (he has Multispell, Automatic Metamagic (quicken) and Improved Metamagic). While time stopped, he buffs himself with true seeing, protection from energy (x5), and a maximized delayed blast fireball, which wounds the PCs but doesn't kill anyone. He also readies an action to engulf the druid, which succeeds. The druid fails the Reflex save, loses all Int, and becomes a favored spawn of Kyuss. The barbarian moves up to Kyuss.

Round 3: Rogue moves up to the wizard's corpse and grabs her staff of the magi, intending to do a retributive strike. Monk does another greater flurry and lands one hit. Druid turns into a dire bear and moves towards the barbarian. Cleric does a greater turning and destroys the druid. Kyuss hits the cleric with a Divine Blast and a quickened maximized meteor swarm, killing him. Barbarian takes out a full attack on Kyuss, missing every time.

Round 4: Rogue begins sneaking up to Kyuss. Monk takes out another greater flurry, landing two hits. Kyuss engulfs the monk, turning him into another favored spawn of Kyuss, and does a quickened harm on himself to get rid of what little damage has been done to him. Barbarian attacks and misses again.

Round 5: The rogue jumps out at Kyuss, trying to get Kyuss to engulf him. The monk moves up to the barbarian and hits him once, nearly stunning him. Kyuss uses a Divine Blast on the rogue, annihilating him. The barbarian picks up the staff of the magi and readies to be engulfed.

Round 6: The monk beats the everloving crap out of the barbarian, leaving him with 6 hit points. Kyuss uses his death touch domain ability and snuffs him out. TPK.

The players had a very good time, despite being killed, and are looking forward to the next short adventure I'm writing, where a low-level adventure is going perfectly normally, when Kyuss worms begin raining from the sky and suddenly there's undead everywhere.

Cheliax

office_ninja wrote:

Round 1: Rogue cohort readies to counter Mordenkainen's disjunction with a scroll. Wizard does time stop, throws 4 maxmized sonic delayed blast fireballs at Kyuss -- none manage to beat his SR. Monk tumbles to the other side of Kyuss. Druid turns into a pit fiend and casts a fire storm, which fails to beat Kyuss' SR. Cleric does a chained heal (using a special magic item) to heal the damage done by the harm that happened back when Kyuss started emerging. Kyuss spends the entire round emerging from the monolith. His divine aura dazes the cohort and the barbarian.

Round 2: Rogue is dazed. Wizard does a Mordenkainen's disjunction on Kyuss, which is useless, as he has no spells going. His two artifacts are unaffected. Monk does a hasted greater flurry and lands one hit on Kyuss. Druid tumbles up to Kyuss. Cleric does another chained heal to un-daze people. Kyuss uses Hand of Death and slays the wizard outright. Then he uses a quickened maze on the cleric (which fails, as he has greater spell immunity) and a quickened time stop (he has Multispell, Automatic Metamagic (quicken) and Improved Metamagic). While time stopped, he buffs himself with true seeing, protection from energy (x5), and a maximized delayed blast fireball, which wounds the PCs but doesn't kill anyone. He also readies an action to engulf the druid, which succeeds. The druid fails the Reflex save, loses all Int, and becomes a favored spawn of Kyuss. The barbarian moves up to Kyuss.

Round 3: Rogue moves up to the wizard's corpse and grabs her staff of the magi, intending to do a retributive strike. Monk does another greater flurry and lands one hit. Druid turns into a dire bear and moves towards the barbarian. Cleric does a greater turning and destroys the druid. Kyuss hits the cleric with a Divine Blast and a quickened maximized meteor swarm, killing him. Barbarian takes out a full attack on Kyuss, missing every time.

Round 4: Rogue begins sneaking up to Kyuss. Monk takes out another greater flurry, landing two hits. Kyuss engulfs the monk,...

I'm glad to hear that your battle with Kyuss went as you hoped. I remember the thread where you were lamenting how your characters walked through Dragotha so I am happy to hear a different outcome happened when they confronted the Worm God. Do you intend to let them work up to more powerful characters again and get another go at him? Or are you pretty much done with Kyuss in your campaign in the bigger picture?

Great description of the battle. When I played in Age of Worms, we managed to defeat Kyuss when we fought him, but it was a lot of luck and a near TPK even without him advanced as you did. Great stuff. There isn't anything as fun as a truely deadly battle against a powerful opponent in D&D. Some of my best memories of the game have been when I have lost characters to things like Pit Fiends. Great stuff and good job as DM for making a truely memorable encounter for your PC's.


That sounds like it was great fun. I remember reading the stat block (only got that issue - my first one, because we were talking about how 'that party of three is going down!'), and remember thinking 'There's gonna be some TPKs...


Afterall that ideas to beef him up, the extra power resulted in totally wiping out your party! AMAZING! Eat that POWER GAMERS! WOOT!


Brent wrote:
Do you intend to let them work up to more powerful characters again and get another go at him? Or are you pretty much done with Kyuss in your campaign in the bigger picture?

I'm writing a small campaign to go from levels 3-10. At around level 5, the Age of Worms arrives. The PCs, having been sequestered in a Rod of Security-like device, emerge to find hordes of worm-eaten undead and thick green mist blanketing the Free City. They'll probably gain a level or two just escaping the city.

Then some nobleman outside, among the survivors, asks the PCs to go back in and rescue his son (who he knows is still alive, from a Status spell or something similar).
By the end of the module, the PCs might liberate another city, like maybe Magepoint, but in the end the best they can hope for is to escape the mainland (a la Dawn of the Dead).

Osirion

Just out of curiosity, and a death wish on my players, I would like to be made privy to the generic stats of the great god Kyuss. Not a stat block, to be sure, but just a general lowdown, AC, HP, Divine Rank, Init, etcetra.

A little lead up wouldn't be bad, either. Info on what monsters they fought and what they were all using as items in the battle.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Did your players not have the sphere of annihilation or the talisman of the sphere? Did you ban it?


Bravo! Seems like you didn't pull any punches.. If there's one of two fights I plan on absolutely-no-holds-barred-open-dice-rolling-oh-everyone-died?-type of game, it's the battle royale with Kyuss and the fight against Dragptha. What exactly did you change on Kyuss to make him tougher? (Might pull similiar tricks...)
I happily hope to slay all my PCs when the time comes, and your story has greatly inspired me. Most excellent!


Small Attention Span wrote:
Just out of curiosity, and a death wish on my players, I would like to be made privy to the generic stats of the great god Kyuss. Not a stat block, to be sure, but just a general lowdown, AC, HP, Divine Rank, Init, etcetra. A little lead up wouldn't be bad, either. Info on what monsters they fought and what they were all using as items in the battle.

AC 64, hp 1080, Divine Rank 5, Init +7, SR 57, fast healing 25.

After Lashonna, they rested. Prior to Kyuss they'd fought a souped-up Maralee, some Kyuss knights, and 3 broodfiends (at once), and dispatched them without expending much resources.

Joseph Jolly wrote:
Did your players not have the sphere of annihilation or the talisman of the sphere? Did you ban it?

Well, it's optional according to the module. But yeah, I left it completely out.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Something about the comments on this thread worries me. I can understand that TPK's happen (it's happened in my campaign...our group did not win the battle with Adimarchus in Shackled City), but there seem to be many here who are gleeful about wiping out thier group's PC's. Is that what the game is supposed to be about? DM vs player? If that's the case, then the DM automatically wins. Another term for DM is referee, someone who adjucicates. IMO, a good DM is one who keeps the game on that razor's edge between party annihilation, and victory, but having known you've been in a fight. I personally would never want to play with a DM that I know is only out to wipe out my party. Where is the fun in that? In theory, D&D is a game of heroes...the good guys win. They might get smacked down, but in the end, more times than not, shouldn't they be victorious?


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game Subscriber
Joseph Jolly wrote:
Something about the comments on this thread worries me. I can understand that TPK's happen (it's happened in my campaign...our group did not win the battle with Adimarchus in Shackled City), but there seem to be many here who are gleeful about wiping out thier group's PC's. Is that what the game is supposed to be about? DM vs player? If that's the case, then the DM automatically wins. Another term for DM is referee, someone who adjucicates. IMO, a good DM is one who keeps the game on that razor's edge between party annihilation, and victory, but having known you've been in a fight. I personally would never want to play with a DM that I know is only out to wipe out my party. Where is the fun in that? In theory, D&D is a game of heroes...the good guys win. They might get smacked down, but in the end, more times than not, shouldn't they be victorious?

I read the gleeful remarks with a grain of salt. As a DM, I will often tell other DMs that I had two TPKs in Shackled City with a smirk on my face, but I really look at that as a failure of timing on my part.

Those who do want a legitimate environment for TPKing the party should check out the Descent boardgame by Fantasy Flight Games and play as the Overlord.


Joseph Jolly wrote:
Something about the comments on this thread worries me. I can understand that TPK's happen (it's happened in my campaign...our group did not win the battle with Adimarchus in Shackled City), but there seem to be many here who are gleeful about wiping out thier group's PC's. Is that what the game is supposed to be about? DM vs player? If that's the case, then the DM automatically wins. Another term for DM is referee, someone who adjucicates. IMO, a good DM is one who keeps the game on that razor's edge between party annihilation, and victory, but having known you've been in a fight. I personally would never want to play with a DM that I know is only out to wipe out my party. Where is the fun in that? In theory, D&D is a game of heroes...the good guys win. They might get smacked down, but in the end, more times than not, shouldn't they be victorious?

I agree with you in principle; instigating TPKs just for the power trip-induced adreneline rush goes against the spirit of the game. I wouldn't play with a DM who had this attitude.

But an anticlimatic final battle where the PCs wipe the BBEG out in round 1 is just as bad as a TPK. office_ninja's previous thread about Dragotha is mainly what I'm thinking of here. He was trying to avoid a similar easy fate for Kyuss, which he apparently achieved. Also, it looks like this battle might have actually been fun.

So, will Kyuss make another appearance in your follow up campaign after eating the previous PCs alive?

Qadira

Joseph Jolly wrote:
Something about the comments on this thread worries me. I can understand that TPK's happen (it's happened in my campaign...our group did not win the battle with Adimarchus in Shackled City), but there seem to be many here who are gleeful about wiping out thier group's PC's. Is that what the game is supposed to be about? DM vs player? If that's the case, then the DM automatically wins. Another term for DM is referee, someone who adjucicates. IMO, a good DM is one who keeps the game on that razor's edge between party annihilation, and victory, but having known you've been in a fight. I personally would never want to play with a DM that I know is only out to wipe out my party. Where is the fun in that? In theory, D&D is a game of heroes...the good guys win. They might get smacked down, but in the end, more times than not, shouldn't they be victorious?

I agree. This would have been a major letdown for me and I would be looking for a new group if I found out I had a DM who just wanted to prove that all my hard work and character building was easy for him to trash. Character death is fine and several character deaths is fine, but to TPK a party, just to prove you could, even though they didn't do anything stupid, is extremely Lame and self-serving. The game is about teamwork, not DM vs PCs.

If they did something stupid/reckless/idiotic then go ahead, they deserve a TPK, but they didn't seem to do anything except become powerful. Bad for them?
Shame on you.

FH


Fake Healer wrote:

I agree. This would have been a major letdown for me and I would be looking for a new group if I found out I had a DM who just wanted to prove that all my hard work and character building was easy for him to trash. Character death is fine and several character deaths is fine, but to TPK a party, just to prove you could, even though they didn't do anything stupid, is extremely Lame and self-serving. The game is about teamwork, not DM vs PCs.

If they did something stupid/reckless/idiotic then go ahead, they deserve a TPK, but they didn't seem to do anything except become powerful. Bad for them?
Shame on you.

FH

It wasn't competition (that would be patently ridiculous), and it's not punishment (even horrible minmaxers shouldn't be punished for following the rules).

People were starting to not have fun, because on the one hand you have powergamers who spend weekends learning how to squeeze every drop of power out of every sentence in every d20 supplement ever published. On the other, you have regular players. The disparity was such that either 1) the powergamers are bored, or 2) the regular players are annihilated.
So, to keep things fun, I started over. And while I admit there was a bit of prurient giggling on my part handing the ludicrously minmaxed PCs their asses, I really just wanted to go out with a bang and set up the next adventure.
Most importantly, the players had fun. Even when they were TPKed, just the sheer power of Kyuss entertained them (they're powergamers, after all). And now they're looking forward to a low-level game in the actual Age of Worms.
And really, all that matters is that people are having fun. So no, no shame on me thx.


Rakshaka wrote:

Bravo! Seems like you didn't pull any punches.. If there's one of two fights I plan on absolutely-no-holds-barred-open-dice-rolling-oh-everyone-died?-type of game, it's the battle royale with Kyuss and the fight against Dragptha. What exactly did you change on Kyuss to make him tougher? (Might pull similiar tricks...)

I happily hope to slay all my PCs when the time comes, and your story has greatly inspired me. Most excellent!

Not to thread hijack, but I guess an explanation is in order as I think the above comments refer to my post. I have been running Age of Worms for about a year and have yet to even get close to TPK. It's not something I strive for, but if it happens, it happens. I'm not TRULY serious about laughing in the faces of my PCs while their hard-wrought heroes and many months of awesome character development get stomped into the ground. If I wanted to kill my PCs out of spite, they'd all be dead this instant and it wouldn't be their story any more, or even Paizo's, but my own selfish ego-trip. I don't think any DM who has posted yet on these boards is really happy about killing their players, rather it's more enthusiasm in the development of a possible new twists to a story that countless are playing through right now. If everyone dies in someone else's adventure, I want to know how so I can at least give my PCs a chance to avoid the same fate.

That said, I reinforce my comments about not pulling punches with the Dragotha or Kyuss fights. These are the pivotal fights of the entire campaign, and I plan on running them as deadly as the designers planned, possibly moreso..
Again, sorry to thread-hijack..


Not to pile on, ON, but if I was one of your players and found out that I'd been pitted against a foe with SR 57 and AC 64 and had unsurprisingly been slaughtered as a result, I'd be furious.

But it sounds like they aren't.

So that's cool.

Still, after 20 levels, aren't you and they kind of bored with the Age of Worms? Wouldn't it be more fun to start fresh?

Cheliax

Jebadiah Utecht wrote:

Not to pile on, ON, but if I was one of your players and found out that I'd been pitted against a foe with SR 57 and AC 64 and had unsurprisingly been slaughtered as a result, I'd be furious.

But it sounds like they aren't.

So that's cool.

Still, after 20 levels, aren't you and they kind of bored with the Age of Worms? Wouldn't it be more fun to start fresh?

You need to go read the Dragotha thread to understand where office ninja is coming from on this. It is very difficult as a DM to find challenges for high level groups that are tough enough to make them sweat, but not so much so that they are an instant TPK. If you actually saw the builds his characters had from that thread, you will see he didn't have many options other than to advance Kyuss in order to make the battle enjoyable for his players. A lot of the DM's here are congratulating him on finally having a BBEG that was tough enough to handle his group. There is no shame in that. Certainly, if the game is never dangerous to the players, there is no suspension of disbelief and that makes any D&D game very unfun.

Qadira

Brent wrote:
You need to go read the Dragotha thread to understand where office ninja is coming from on this. It is very difficult as a DM to find challenges for high level groups that are tough enough to make them sweat, but not so much so that they are an instant TPK. If you actually saw the builds his characters had from that thread, you will see he didn't have many options other than to advance Kyuss in order to make the battle enjoyable for his players. A lot of the DM's here are congratulating him on finally having a BBEG that was tough enough to handle his group. There is no shame in that. Certainly, if the game is never dangerous to the players, there is no suspension of disbelief and that makes any D&D game very unfun.

All I see is a DM who couldn't adjust to his players' style of play to either 1. control their power level. 2. Adjust the challenge of the monsters to provide a challenge. The result was a knee-jerk reaction that led to extreme overkill in adjusting the final encounter.

Bad DMing. This wasn't something that happened in a session or so, the characters were growing in strength, the DM should have kept up with encounter strength instead of letting them get over-powered and bored and then try a desperation move like creating a TPK situation. And yes, I did read the other thread, so I do know how the situation came about. It still is no excuse for a huge DM mistake.

FH


I am going to assume that somewhere someone is the type of player that get mad and whine if your characters die or throw a fit like a 9 year old.

The DM is there to make the game a challenge, if the characters aren't challenged they don't really feel heroic at all, I hate having to pull a punch because a player starts to whine or throw a fit if their character is pummeled (I noticed that mostly power gamers do this since they maximize their character to win, and minimize their ability to lose.)

I had disagreements with the way that office ninja ran the dragotha fight, but in the end he decided that to challenge his group of power gamers, he would have to up the challenge threat, and thus increased Kyuss from Divine Rank 1 to Divine Rank 5. He wasn't attempting to outright slaughter them, he was attempting to make the battle memoriable and challenging.

The players seem to have had a great time with all accounts, so therefore I don't see what the beef is.

And yes, I do smirk everytime I manage to kill a player, why because its one of the few enjoyments I can actually get out of the game, I for one DM for my group not for myself, as I much rather be a player and not have to work my butt off to provide entertainment for other people, I don't enjoy it because its a PC death, I enjoy it because it adds to the overreaching story. Next time someone starts whining or throwing a fit however I am going to throw them out on the porch and continue on with my game.

Heroes die, grow up and move on. (What happened to the good ole days when if your character died you just busted out a new character sheet, and some paper to write up a background story on and got to work while the rest of the game continues on around you, and you put the character away for later use if you happen to get Raised/Resurrected, players are so spoiled these days.)

Actually btw, I do want to address something to Fake Healer...

A) There is nothing wrong with someone who plays by the rules, and when his players squeeze every bit of power out of the rules there isn't really anything he can do except go, "Well, I don't like that rule so you can't use it" which means more of a mistake to me if you been running by the rules from that point.

B) He did actually what you just said... he adjusted the challenge of the monsters to provide a challenge, maybe he did overcompensate alittle and it resulted in a TPK, and if we look at the characters I am sure someone could find away to have survived and beaten the super-kyuss, but that fact of the matter is that his group enjoyed it, which is exactly what a being a dungeon master is about, providing fun for your group.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Arcmagik wrote:

which is exactly what a being a dungeon master is about, providing fun for your group.

Amen. Good job btw office ninja. Way to show your players a good time. Some of my favorite gaming memories are getting iced by truly memorable villans. My AoW game is only at TFoE, but I can't wait to make it to this final battle. I'm half-hoping that Kyuss annialates my group as well when they get there, just to have the opportunity to run a game in the Age of Worms like you suggest, but I guess we'll see what the dice say.

office_ninja wrote:

I'm writing a small campaign to go from levels 3-10. At around level 5, the Age of Worms arrives. The PCs, having been sequestered in a Rod of Security-like device, emerge to find hordes of worm-eaten undead and thick green mist blanketing the Free City. They'll probably gain a level or two just escaping the city.

Then some nobleman outside, among the survivors, asks the PCs to go back in and rescue his son (who he knows is still alive, from a Status spell or something similar).
By the end of the module, the PCs might liberate another city, like maybe Magepoint, but in the end the best they can hope for is to escape the mainland (a la Dawn of the Dead).

Sounds like an great idea. As I said, we're not too far into the AP but I've been thinking of things to do when we're done. If Kyuss whomps the party, I'll end up doing something like what you have here. If the PC's win however, I wanted to pursue the spell weaver angle. I've always liked these critters, and the presence of the harbringer from SoLS got me thinking. What the hell is he doing there? In a way, it was the harbringer that precipitated Kyuss' ascention by giving him the original green worm. Where did he get it? Why did he give it to a human and not use it himself? I've always seen spell weavers the same way I see mind flayers. Creatures of alien an alien mindset manipulating events from afar for their own ends. Was the harbringer acting alone in associating with Kyuss or did his actions represent the combined will of the remaining spell weavers. Perhaps all the BBEGs in this AP were duped into being instruments in the spell weavers' plans. Perhaps there really IS and Overgod. Ever notice the six arms on the Ebon Aspect. Maybe that has less to do with Hextor than it does with the TRUE architects of the Age of Worms. AH HA HA HA HAAAAAA!!!

Anyway I've noticed that these creatures have played some small part in both of the AP's so far (the Demonscar in SC and the Harbringer in AoW). I'm interested to see if they'll make an appearance in ST and if their inclusion has been a precusor to an AP involving them to a greater degree.


Fake Healer wrote:

All I see is a DM who couldn't adjust to his players' style of play to either 1. control their power level. 2. Adjust the challenge of the monsters to provide a challenge. The result was a knee-jerk reaction that led to extreme overkill in adjusting the final encounter.

Bad DMing. This wasn't something that happened in a session or so, the characters were growing in strength, the DM should have kept up with encounter strength instead of letting them get over-powered and bored and then try a desperation move like creating a TPK situation. And yes, I did read the other thread, so I do know how the situation came about. It still is no excuse for a huge DM mistake.

FH

But the players enjoyed it. So your arguement is prety much null and void. Obviously if this went down in your group you wouldn't like it - and this is cool. Office_ninja saw that his group was getting bored with their game and decided to let it all end in one huge dust up that would likely end with PC deaths - possibly a TPK. Even after the improvements he made to Kyuss I am surprised his PCs still didn't beat him - they were combat monsters themsleves. I don't see any percentage in bashing office_ninja over this and honestly it smacks of you telling others how bad their fun is. That isn't cool in my book.


Fake Healer wrote:

All I see is a DM who couldn't adjust to his players' style of play to either 1. control their power level. 2. Adjust the challenge of the monsters to provide a challenge. The result was a knee-jerk reaction that led to extreme overkill in adjusting the final encounter.

Bad DMing. This wasn't something that happened in a session or so, the characters were growing in strength, the DM should have kept up with encounter strength instead of letting them get over-powered and bored and then try a desperation move like creating a TPK situation. And yes, I did read the other thread, so I do know how the situation came about. It still is no excuse for a huge DM mistake.

Well let's look at those two options.

1) Control their power level. What does this mean, exactly? Saying "Oh you can't use that spell from the PHB. I said so." or "you can't craft Incense of Meditation because even though you meet all the prerequisites, it's too powerful. I said so." This seems really lame and arbitrary to me, and to my players. Not to mention that most of their exploits were sprung on me at the last minute. I don't find out that the druid has an AC of 77 until all the buffs are in place and he's attacked. I resitricted them to 3 core books -- I don't see what else I could do in this regard (we joked about restricting them to page 31 of the PHB, paragraph 3, and they'd still be able to wipe the floor with everything).
2) Adjust the encounters to provide a challenge. This basically means souping up the monsters. Which I did, in many instances (Dragotha, Lashonna, Kyuss). Only problem was when the 2 or 3 powergamers have their hands full and feel challenged, everyone else feels utterly useless. It's a disparity of playing styles that's nigh unavoidable, especially at high level. It's just what happens when roleplayers and minmaxers mingle.

I don't consider it bad DMing, because -- as I said before -- everyone had fun and that's really why we're all there. So nyaah.


office_ninja wrote:
I don't consider it bad DMing, because -- as I said before -- everyone had fun and that's really why we're all there. So nyaah.

Well stated. There's a point to constructive criticism, and then there's some of the above posts. Truly, the idea of posting our AOW scenarios hear is to show other ways DMs are running the game or problems that have come up. I fail to see what the above argument is all about, and makes me not want to post my party's exploits because someone's gonna come out and call me a bad DM. I'm gonna post anyway, and more power to you, Office-Ninja, for sticking to your guns. People need to realize that different groups of people have different styles of play, and sometimes uppity PCs need to be taught a lesson, especially when you describe the group you have (sounds like mine). BOTTOM LINE- what you did for your PCs was awesome and a lazier DM or one who didn't care about them would never have done what you have for them. Bravo!

Cheliax

office_ninja wrote:
Fake Healer wrote:

All I see is a DM who couldn't adjust to his players' style of play to either 1. control their power level. 2. Adjust the challenge of the monsters to provide a challenge. The result was a knee-jerk reaction that led to extreme overkill in adjusting the final encounter.

Bad DMing. This wasn't something that happened in a session or so, the characters were growing in strength, the DM should have kept up with encounter strength instead of letting them get over-powered and bored and then try a desperation move like creating a TPK situation. And yes, I did read the other thread, so I do know how the situation came about. It still is no excuse for a huge DM mistake.

Well let's look at those two options.

1) Control their power level. What does this mean, exactly? Saying "Oh you can't use that spell from the PHB. I said so." or "you can't craft Incense of Meditation because even though you meet all the prerequisites, it's too powerful. I said so." This seems really lame and arbitrary to me, and to my players. Not to mention that most of their exploits were sprung on me at the last minute. I don't find out that the druid has an AC of 77 until all the buffs are in place and he's attacked. I resitricted them to 3 core books -- I don't see what else I could do in this regard (we joked about restricting them to page 31 of the PHB, paragraph 3, and they'd still be able to wipe the floor with everything).
2) Adjust the encounters to provide a challenge. This basically means souping up the monsters. Which I did, in many instances (Dragotha, Lashonna, Kyuss). Only problem was when the 2 or 3 powergamers have their hands full and feel challenged, everyone else feels utterly useless. It's a disparity of playing styles that's nigh unavoidable, especially at high level. It's just what happens when roleplayers and minmaxers mingle.

I don't consider it bad DMing, because -- as I said before -- everyone had fun and that's really why we're all there. So nyaah.

Well said officninja. I totally agree. Your players had fun in that final confrontation and that is the point. Don't let someone else's perspective of what should and shouldn't happen at the gaming table take that from you. After your description of what happened with Dragotha, I likely would have done many of the same things you said. It makes perfect sense to increase the power of Kyuss after the way your group slaughtered Dragotha. I commend you for posting your experiences here and taking the flack for it. As a DM, I find it invaluable to hear how others have handled situations like this because none of us know when we might be faced with a similar problem. If it perfectly natural for players to maximize their characters and if they are bored because every battle is easy, then it is our job as DM to make the battles tougher to keep it interesting. Great job!!!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Officeninja, my original post was not directed at you. It was just a comment on the fact that, IMO, it should not be the role of the DM to kill the PC's. I'm shocked that an earlier poster said he likes to do it because it relieves his boredom of DM'ing. If you hate it that much, don't do it. Certainly if my gamers perceived that I was bored running games for them, they would stop asking me to. I agree with you: if you have power gamers, skilled players, whatever you want to call them, you must make sure they are appropriately challenged, or everyone becomes bored. But there is a fine line to be walked there. You can ramp up an encounter to be unbeatable, but then where's the fun? For my players, who mopped the floor with Dragotha, I'm going to try this tactic: leave Kyuss as-is, with the exeception of a couple of spell swaps and feat tweaks, but I'm not going to hamstring him as the module recommends if the PC's destroy the vortex of neg. energy, and/or remove despair from the people. They will be rewarded for accomplishing theses things, but not in the manner suggested by the writers. I know my group. I know their strengths and weaknesses, but I won't metagame to beat them. I will, however, allow Kyuss to utilize all the knowledge he is sure to have gained by this time, both from his own observations and those of his minions. He well be well advised on the tactics of his opponents, and will react accordingly. Then, we will let the chips fall where they may. The outcome of the battle is not important to me. What is important, is that the players have fun (which your players seemed to), and that I enjoy the experience (which you seemed to). If Savage Tide begins in a worm-ridden version of Toril, so be it. Will certainly make life more interesting, and somewhere out there, at least in my world, there is still one pissed off demon prince of madness at large. Who knows what mischief he could get up to in a Kyussian/Demogorgon ridden world?

In any event, I'll be sure and post the outcome here. Peace!


This is great stuff, thanks for sharing.

I've got to ask though (and this is in no way criticism, just curious to learn)... by about round 3 or 4, it should have been pretty obvious that the party was in over their heads - PC's were falling, especially the spell casters (without which you're usually toast), and Kyuss wasn't taking any real damage. Why did your PC's just keep on trying to go toe to toe with him until the bitter end? Was it because it had worked for them so many times before and they failed to adapt their strategies when it started to go wrong? Did they just give up? Or were they just happy to go out swinging?

I've had a few similar experiences or in my time (as DM and player), but not at such high levels. In one case as soon as the wizard died the group used a ring of Wishes to go back in time and try again (nearly all dies the 2nd time too, but at least they got a chance to try a different set of tactics). Recently, our group I play in was all down except one character, who promptly picked up my character (her sister) and retreated. Other times, as DM, I've seen the characters vary between retreat and "last stand", but last stand is only ever used when they still figure they have a reasonable chance of winning, I think it's been used once ever and they eventually won out (just, one death, one character blind).

I guess that's why I ask what motivated your players to make a last stand as such... in my games, usually some of the players take a while to adjust to nature of how I run things and the fact that yes some fights are going to be super-tough and perhaps discretion is the best part of valour rather than just assume they can always win regardless, but by the time we've done a few levels as a group they have lifted their game a lot but still have a healthy respect for their opponents.


From reading the adventure, it seemed to me that the PCs would only get one opportunity to stop Kyuss. If they failed, the Age of Worms takes hold.

I still say, have Kyuss use antimagic field :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
dungeonblaster wrote:

From reading the adventure, it seemed to me that the PCs would only get one opportunity to stop Kyuss. If they failed, the Age of Worms takes hold.

I still say, have Kyuss use antimagic field :)

Only problems with this are that it renders most of his abilities null, including his divine blast. Sure his magic items (artifacts) are still useable, but then so is the sphere of annihilation, which most parties should have during this battle. PC's might also reasonably posess two pieces of the rod of seven parts and the hand of Vecna, as well as Zosiel's circlet, all artifacts. Not good odds for the Big K.


Hastur wrote:
This is great stuff, thanks for sharing. I've got to ask though (and this is in no way criticism, just curious to learn)... by about round 3 or 4, it should have been pretty obvious that the party was in over their heads - PC's were falling, especially the spell casters (without which you're usually toast), and Kyuss wasn't taking any real damage. Why did your PC's just keep on trying to go toe to toe with him until the bitter end? Was it because it had worked for them so many times before and they failed to adapt their strategies when it started to go wrong? Did they just give up? Or were they just happy to go out swinging?

My best guess is that the concept of failure/surrender is utterly foreign to them. They haven't lost a single fight since 1st level, or even come close to losing. The notion that they might have to run away is a completely alien concept to them.

I'm hoping to introduce them to the notion of "we can't beat this, we should run" when their new 5th-level characters see their old worm-infested epic-level counterparts making their way towards them.


Great stuff, Office Ninja (hilarious "The Onion" article, BTW). I'm glad to hear at least one Kyuss managed to bring his plans to fruition. >:D

I wonder what I'll have to do to Kyuss once I get to that point... my six players are gestalt, and get a bonus feat every level instead of every three. Sometimes I point my finger at them and threaten that Kyuss is gonna be a triple-gestalt, but I'm just teasing... right?

Still, with all their power they are definitely being challenged. Every PC except one has had a character die, and we only just started Blackwall Keep last week! The one survivor retired; Raesgar the gnome loved life far too much to die fighting the hideous evils of the world. ^_^;;


Joseph Jolly wrote:
Only problems with this are that it renders most of his abilities null, including his divine blast.

Antimagic field does not suppress Salient Divine Abilities. From the SRD, "A salient divine ability functions normally within an antimagic field, and is never subject to spell resistance. "

The other problem though is Kyuss is much bigger than an area of an anti-magic field so your PCs might go for his legs ;)


I always imagined that the antimagic field had a 10 ft. radius beyond the creature's space, but technically I'm probably wrong. You can always used the widen spell feat to make it a 20 ft. radius emanation.

According to the SRD, deities are unaffected by antimagic. I assume that also means that spells cast by deities are unaffected, but this might be a DM judgement call. Even if he can't cast spells, neutralizing the party's spells and magic items is pretty darn useful. Use antimagic field, engulf the character with the talisman of the sphere, usurp control of the sphere...and well you get the picture.


Hmm, I guess I will add my two cents to this post, though rather late. I understand Office-Ninja's approach, although frankly, I would have made some sort of conflict more challenging (effectively challenging that is, as I have read that you did try and beef up early fights) by at least the 4th or 5th adventure module, because of the boredom factor, to do so only in the last 2-3 modules is, sorry to chide, to little to late, in my opinion.

I also wanted to way in as a player. I have played with a GM who was famous for killing off all the players in the last adventure of his long campaigns. In fact he did it so much that the joke was, if you wanted to survive, don't show up for the last adventure. While in the one Werewolf the Apocalypse game I played in, there was one possibly way to suceed, although, when I was told what it was after we had all died, I replied that doing it would have gone against everything my charcter believed in (it was leaving a packmember behiund to turn into a BSD, long story). Anyhow, he ended it by having lava kill us all just as I and one of the other players were about to face off, he having turned into a BSD only moments before hand. Other than the ending of the about to be cool showdown, it was a great ending.

But the point to my long ramble was that there was a possible solution to the conudrum of our impending dooms. I suspect, that you, Office-Ninja that is, could have run old Supe'Kyuss against your min-maxed party a few times over and still come up with the same result, TPK. In fact, I suspect, from reading the post and knowing what I do about high level adventures, that since the SR rating was so high on Kyuss, 57, I mean damm, what did the Wizard only have a chance of beating it on rolling a 20? Since that was so high, it basically negated the Wizard and Cleric from the fight altogether, outside of non-SR based spells, many of which would have probably been ineffective against of wormy. Maybe Maze though.... Anyhow Added to this the fact that your players did go 6 rounds toe to toe with him, and in the end only barely damaged him, I would put forward that in fact, Office-Ninja, that you did not make a challenge at all. Instead you simply made a TPK. And though it sounded cool, and though it probably suprised the hell out of your players, and made for a cool ending to the campaign, it was nothing more than a well acted, but absolutely postive TPK no matter how many times you ran it. I suspect you could run it with the same players and characters 3,4,5, or even 6 times and still have the same result, TPK in 4-8 rounds with Kyuss barely hurt.

I would contend that a good GM challenges his players, while always giving them a possible solution. Maybe allowing for all of the options like the Sphere or gating in some allies, or frankly just a mild 1-2 divine level power up for Kyuss, would create a challenge, not a scripted ending for your campaign.

Players should always have a chance of success, just like they should always have a chance at failure. Players should always taste success just as they should always taste failure, from time to time. That is my cardinal rule of gaming. IMOHO

On the other hand kudos for the wrap up mid level campaign you wrote, sounds like a awesome set of adventures with a nice cathartic ending for them. I always liked tie in campaigns.


office_ninja wrote:


My best guess is that the concept of failure/surrender is utterly foreign to them. They haven't lost a single fight since 1st level, or even come close to losing. The notion that they might have to run away is a completely alien concept to them.
I'm hoping to introduce them to the notion of "we can't beat this, we should run" when their new 5th-level characters see their old worm-infested epic-level counterparts making their way towards them.

I can certainly relate to that sentiment. My characters were being throttled by the alkilith in Champion's Belt. One was completely gone due to the Symbol of Fear trap and two others were forced to flee due to nausea from the Stinking Cloud. By the time the last character fell to the effects of the Stinking Cloud, the party's tank had gotten over his nausea and launched a second assault on the demon by himself. After pummeling him with a second straight round of four slam attacks I called for a break in the action and flat-out told everybody that if they were EVER going to run from a fight in their lives, this was probably the one. The fighter still hung around for another round and only escaped because I was in a forgiving mood.


Sol wrote:
Hmm, I guess I will add my two cents to this post, though rather late. I understand Office-Ninja's approach, although frankly, I would have made some sort of conflict more challenging (effectively challenging that is, as I have read that you did try and beef up early fights) by at least the 4th or 5th adventure module, because of the boredom factor, to do so only in the last 2-3 modules is, sorry to chide, to little to late, in my opinion.

Fair enough. I would contend that a good GM's primary function is to ensure everyone has fun, rather than to prolong something people don't care for.

Plus I'd already had the post-Age-of-Worms campaign in mind. It was fun to have a group of 10th level PCs fight (and defeat) the demigod that their 22nd level PCs were killed by.
And yeah, it was totally designed to be a TPK. There was definitely no hope of victory for the party -- guilty as charged there.


TPK. If thats the story Ninja wants to tell, then I'm all for it. My rules to running an RPG: Players fun #1, DM Story #2. Thats pretty much my M.O. when I run.

In a game where you have plenty of game time, its a pretty smart preamble to Ninja's setting for a world where the worms rule.

Three more Fridays and I'm done with Age of Worms.


By the way, DM boasts of TPK, in my opinion, is really no more than bravado and hootin-and-hollarin' for most. I TPKd my original players PCs, but I didn't want to - it just happened. I was as disappointed as they were, but after 2 rounds of combat, they know the enemies AC and attack bonuses.

I think most other DMs *usually* feel the same way (unless there is an underlying reason, such as Ninjas preamble idea).


office_ninja wrote:


Fair enough. I would contend that a good GM's primary function is to ensure everyone has fun, rather than to prolong something people don't care for.
Plus I'd already had the post-Age-of-Worms campaign in mind. It was fun to have a group of 10th level PCs fight (and defeat) the demigod that their 22nd level PCs were killed by.
And yeah, it was totally designed to be a TPK. There was definitely no hope of victory for the party -- guilty as charged there.

Well of course the rule to end all rules, is "are we having any fun?" I guess where I was coming from with this is that I believe, as a GM, and as a educator, that choice/possibilities is/are a prime factor in fun. Railroads don't feel fun to many people. Maybe when they are suprising, and well hidden, but why go to all the trouble of suprising your players with a scripted ending, when giving them choice would be just as easy.

I must admit I have personal reasons for feeling the way I do about railroading, especially endings. I gamed, as a player, with a GM for a few years who imagined himself a soon to be succesful writer (yet who could never finish writing anything...long story.) Anyhow he railroaded his plots, especially the endings, because he had certain goals in mind, a outcome, a heroic interaction which he had already written long ahead of time in his head. As Monte Cook clearly point out, this is not good gaming. This is a DM mistaking his role as co-creator of the gaming world, for God & Master of the gaming world.

I guess I would, especially on the last showdown, the grand finale, not have a clear emding that must occur, because in my opinion it just cheapens ever encounter and every adventure and the entire arch of the campaign from the start, lowering the grandness and greatness of the characters achievements, to simply plot points in a larger game all scripted in the DM's head.

I hate to analyze you game, Office-Ninja, but there has bene long discussion of it, so bear with me for one more paragraph of it at least. I feel, from what I have read of your posts, that you and your players did not get a lot out of the Age of Worms Campaign. Am I right? That the campaign felt old, broken, and boring, long before the great showdown with Kyuss, long before the showdown with Dragotha, maybe even before the most excellent adventure with old Prince Zeech. If that is the case, let me say, perhaps you should take to heart so of this criticism, not the number chrunching bits, about this encounter or that encounter, but instead take to heart the larger more systematic discussions, the big ideas as it were. Ideas like player choice. Ideas like challenging players early on in a campaign. Ideas like perhaps bringing players more into campaign decisions. There are many possibilities, I for one keep the blood flowing hot in my campaign by having many side stories going for each player, by making other, non AoW associated things happening to my players, things that they initiate and we run with together, on the edges of the main campaign ark, thus personalizing it for each player. I say this only because I have been gaming a long time now (22 years and counting) and the Age of Worms is some of the best gaming I have ever exprienced (my players, thankfully agree). Sure there are bad adventures (GoW for one) but overall it is one awesome campaign, and if your group had a rough time in it, and didn't enjoy themselves, maybe look that hard in the face and try to figure it out, before you run another campaign. Look at what worked (beyond the connectivinty to the old plot lines, but keep that in mind) in your 10th level kill-Kyuss post-AoW campaign. See if you can't bring that into your DM'ing in the future. But try and carefully debrief your AoW exprience to ensure that if you do run another AP, that it works well for everyone, almost all of the time, this time around.

Good Luck


Sol wrote:
I hate to analyze you game, Office-Ninja, but there has bene long discussion of it, so bear with me for one more paragraph of it at least. I feel, from what I have read of your posts, that you and your players did not get a lot out of the Age of Worms Campaign. Am I right?

Only near the end. It was great fun until the disparities between the power gamers and the roleplayers came to a head. I'd say it was around the end of the Isle of Last Resort that the fun tapered off and conflicts arose.

Sol wrote:
If that is the case, let me say, perhaps you should take to heart so of this criticism, not the number chrunching bits, about this encounter or that encounter, but instead take to heart the larger more systematic discussions, the big ideas as it were. Ideas like player choice. ...Sure there are bad adventures (GoW for one) but overall it is one awesome campaign, and if your group had a rough time in it, and didn't enjoy themselves, maybe look that hard in the face and try to figure it out, before you run another campaign. Look at what worked (beyond the connectivinty to the old plot lines, but keep that in mind) in your 10th level kill-Kyuss post-AoW campaign. See if you can't bring that into your DM'ing in the future. But try and carefully debrief your AoW exprience to ensure that if you do run another AP, that it works well for everyone, almost all of the time, this time around.

Your opinions are both right on the money and pretty much irrelevant in my case.

Absolutely, people hate being railroaded. I've known that for years, and I've played with That Guy Who Has His Story Already Written (TM). But railroading is not the source of the lack of fun. Railroading plot-wise doesn't factor into the problem.
The lack of fun comes when, for example, the druid, who is an uber-power-gamer, can inflict 500+ points of damage a round while the barbarian, a casual gamer/role-player, can't even hit anything except on a 20. The former starts feeling bored and the latter starts feeling useless.
It's not a question of being railroaded, even by a TPK, or by the quality of the campaign (since, as you say, Age of Worms is pretty dang cool), it's just a bad mix of people that I'm trying to juggle. And, if you don't think I handled well by ending and starting over, you're entitled to that opinion certainly.


I don't know that Monte Cook stated that definitive story lines (i.e. railroading) in gaming wasn't the best way to game, but I'll take your word for it (no reason not to). I heard R.A. Salvadore say the same exact thing in the latest D&D Podcast where his DMing was concerned. And you know what - I am total disagreement. After all, isn't that what every Adventure Path is? For example, if the players elect not to want to fight Kyuss, you might as well cancel your Dungeon subscription for a year. Further, isn't that what every dungeon is at the end of the day? Baldur's Gate, widely considered the best computer D&D roleplaying game of all time, is the most blatant railroading I've ever seen. We played the exact same game (in my case 4 times) and it was fun every time! I can't go to Baldur's Gate yet because I'm not 5th level?! LOL

At my gaming table, there is an unwritten rule - a contract of sorts between players and DMs.
I, the DM, will offer an exciting fantasy setting with an engaging story. Combat will be fun and equitable. I will do my best to provide believable plot hooks and a customized story without the appearance that you are ever being railroaded (although storyline railroading does occur to a large degree).
You, the Player, accept the above conditions and make a reasonable effort to enjoy the game within parameters. This means that you don't ignore the obvious plot hooks and you play the game with good faith.

Getting back to R.A. Salvadore's interview, he goes on to discuss that his job as DM is to “Sheppard” the players – allow them to do what they want to do. In essence, the players tell their own story. Yeah, that sounds good in theory, but my experience with DMs have been MOSTLY polar opposite. You spend 8 hours gaming (term used loosely) and spend the drive home wondering why you squandered so much time to doing nothing in game.

A good DM casts Undetectable Railroad on his adventure: the players thought every action they took was of their own free-will. In truth, the DM has prepared for most coarses of actions, and successfully winged the rest.

I respect dissenting opinion. In fact, I envy those of you whom are DMs (or players with DMs) that are able to wing adventures in their totality and still tell a good story (though I suspect that if you wing adventures, you don’t subscribe to Dungeon, and thus do not post to this website). Just my two cents on the issue.

(Checking to see if my clothing is flame resistant….)


office_ninja wrote:
And yeah, it was totally designed to be a TPK. There was definitely no hope of victory for the party -- guilty as charged there.

And from a player's point of view, its only railroading if they KNEW they couldn't kill Kyuss. This is where the spell Undetectable Railroading comes in handy.


I’ve Got Reach wrote:
And from a player's point of view, its only railroading if they KNEW they couldn't kill Kyuss. This is where the spell Undetectable Railroading comes in handy.

Yes, it most certainly came as a surprise to them.


I’ve Got Reach wrote:


I don't know that Monte Cook stated that definitive story lines (i.e. railroading) in gaming wasn't the best way to game, but I'll take your word for it (no reason not to). I heard R.A. Salvadore say the same exact thing in the latest D&D Podcast where his DMing was concerned. And you know what - I am total disagreement. After all, isn't that what every Adventure Path is? For example, if the players elect not to want to fight Kyuss, you might as well cancel your Dungeon subscription for a year. Further, isn't that what every dungeon is at the end of the day? Baldur's Gate, widely considered the best computer D&D roleplaying game of all time, is the most blatant railroading I've ever seen. We played the exact same game (in my case 4 times) and it was fun every time! I can't go to Baldur's Gate yet because I'm not 5th level?! LOL

At my gaming table, there is an unwritten rule - a contract of sorts between players and DMs.
I, the DM, will offer an exciting fantasy setting with an engaging story. Combat will be fun and equitable. I will do my best to provide believable plot hooks and a customized story without the appearance that you are ever being railroaded (although storyline railroading does occur to a large degree).
You, the Player, accept the above conditions and make a reasonable effort to enjoy the game within parameters. This means that you don't ignore the obvious plot hooks and you play the game with good faith.

Getting back to R.A. Salvadore's interview, he goes on to discuss that his job as DM is to “Sheppard” the players – allow them to do what they want to do. In essence, the players tell their own story. Yeah, that sounds good in theory, but my experience with DMs have been MOSTLY polar opposite. You spend 8 hours gaming (term used loosely) and spend the drive home wondering why you squandered so much time to doing nothing in game.

A good DM casts Undetectable Railroad on his adventure: the players thought every action they took was of their own free-will. In truth, the DM...

Hey Office-Ninja, thanks for the nice responses on my critiques. Glad to hear I was wrong and that the game ran well for 3/4 of the adventures before running foul at the end.

I will have to look around for the article where he (old Monte) talked about palyer initiative in the plot and railorading, maybe I can find it.

Anyhow, as far as railroading goes, of course the AP is railroading at many points. I have noticed this especially with the most recent adventure that I have run (GoW), and I have noticed that the joy of the last couple sessions has dropped a little as the railroading rises. But, I guess railroading was the wrong term to use in my general critique. What I am really talking about is that player choices matter at all. sure they are going to fight old big wormy, one way or the other, but there is a big difference between them fighting Kyuss and having a chance of TPK, partial TPK, one guy dying, or even everybody surviving and Kyuss either being beaten or being victorious, depending on the particular outcome vs. Kyuss kills them all, no matter what they do, the only option they have, which considering the consequences is really no option, is running away.

So I guess I was critiquing the fact that the players actions did not effect possible outcomes from the climactic adventure of the AP at all. Not just plain of plot devised railroading. Plot devised railroading, is a basic necesity to any pre-planned game, and when properly hidden, as you indicated, works fine. But players actions should always matter, or else, we are not even playing Bladur's Gate on the computer, or even a choose your own adventure book from teh '80s, instead you are just inside someone else's novelization.

Interstingly enough, I have been closely reading the Savage Tides AP and I believe that Paizo has taken to heart some critiques about railroading. It seems that the current AP allows for a lot more free flow characters choices in regards to major plot elements. I noticed this especially in the last three adventures, where players can travel where they want to, go here or there on the island, and in the latest, even not show up for the final showdown in Farshore, and the consequences of such actions are clearly definable. Add to this the side bars about running antithesis (or evil) party, found in every issue, and you have a much more open and frankly intersting set of adventures that keep a hands off approach, leaving players to decide, and thus not railroad. I like it.

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